July Wilderness Bills in Congress
Author: teddygirl | Wednesday August 13, 2008
The following is from Campaign for Americas Wilderness, an organization that is working to achieve lasting protection for threatened wild lands.
June turned out to be one of the biggest months for wilderness legislation thus far in the 110th Congress. The House of Representatives approved three wilderness bills totaling more than 320,000 acres of new protection. Two new wilderness bills, for Badlands and Spring Basin, adding up to more than 40,000 acres in central Oregon, were introduced in the Senate. And later in the month, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), introduced a major public lands package containing more than 90 bills, including seven wilderness bills.
The largest of the three House-approved measures is the California Desert and Mountain Heritage Act (H.R. 3682), introduced by Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), would protect more than 190,000 acres in Riverside County as wilderness, provide wild and scenic protection to 31 miles of four rivers, and expand the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.
The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Wilderness Act of 2008 (H.R. 3022), sponsored by Congressmen Jim Costa (D-CA) and Devin Nunes (R-CA), also saw House action. The legislation would protect 115,000 acres of wilderness in the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park in the Sierra-Nevada mountains east of Fresno, California. Approximately 69,500 acres of the wilderness would be named the John Krebs Wilderness after the former congressman and conservationist who fought to protect these lands in the Mineral King Valley.
Congressman Tom Udall's Sabinoso Wilderness Act (H.R. 2632), which would designate more than 15,000 acres of wilderness in San Miguel County, New Mexico, was also approved by the House.
Each of these locally-supported measures was unanimously agreed to by the full House of Representatives by a voice vote, and sent to the Senate for its consideration. The Senate has already held hearings on the California Desert and Sequoia-Kings Canyon bills.
In Northwest wilderness news, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced two bills to permanently protect more of Oregon's special wild places. The Oregon Badlands Wilderness Act would designate some 30,000 acres east of Bend as wilderness, and the Spring Basin Wilderness Act would protect more than 8,600 acres overlooking the John Day Wild and Scenic River.
The Oregon Badlands area is filled with fantastic rock formations, lava flows and ancient junipers. A 2005 poll of Deschutes County, OR voters found that 68 percent supported wilderness protection for the Badlands. The bill also enjoys strong support from the Central Oregon business community. Spring Basin, also in Central Oregon, boasts rolling hills, blooming wildflower meadows and big sagebrush, and is home to golden eagles, elk and bobcats. In 1989, the Bureau of Land Management recommended to Congress that Spring Basin be designated as wilderness.
Just before the July 4 recess, Chairman Bingaman introduced a package of legislation which included seven wilderness bills that would together protect over 900,000 acres of wild land in Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The bipartisan set of wilderness measures in the lands package includes:
The Copper-Salmon Wilderness Act, to protect 13,700 acres of pristine old-growth forest in Oregon's Siskiyou National Forest;
The Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act, to permanently protect more than 128,000 acres of national forest on Mount Hood in Oregon. A similar version of this bill was also introduced in the House by Oregon's western delegation in June;
The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument Voluntary and Equitable Grazing Conflict Resolution Act, to protect 23,000 acres in southeastern Oregon's Soda Mountain region;
The Owyhee Public Lands Management Act, which will protect as wilderness 517,000 acres in Idaho's Owyhee-Bruneau Canyonlands;
The Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness and Indian Peaks Wilderness Expansion Act, to protect nearly 250,000 acres (94 percent) of Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park;
The Wild Monongahela Act, to protect 37,000 acres of wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia;
The Virginia Ridge and Valley Wilderness and National Scenic Area Act, protecting 43,000 acres of the Jefferson National Forest as wilderness, and another 12,000 as a national scenic area.
Finally, the Senate Subcommittee on National parks also held a hearing in June that included the Beaver Basin Wilderness Act. This legislation would permanently protect 11,739 acres of wilderness at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan.
For more information, visit Campaign for Americas Wilderness website.